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Washington Mayor Fenty signs same-sex marriage bill

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Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty signs into law the Marriage Equality Act in the sanctuary of All Souls Unitarian in Mount Pleasant. In addition to members of the D.C. Council, the mayor's parents attended the event.

After initially saying that city-church contracts were threatened by the measure, church officials Friday appeared to take a more conciliatory tone.

Officials from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities said they expect to find a way to continue the multimillion-dollar contracts, but they did not offer specifics or say why things had suddenly become less precarious.

"We're in the business of hope," said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl.

Neither Gibbs nor Erik Salmi, a spokesman for Catholic Charities, would elaborate on what options they were considering.

Speculations about the archdiocese's strategy included the possibility that it would remain in the contract and wait for the city to sue if, for example, a church employee's gay partner were denied spousal benefits. That would put the city, not the church, in the position of appearing to sacrifice services provided to some of the city's poorest residents.

"I think they're going to do what they've done [in performing social services] and see if the city tries to intervene," said Stephen Schneck, director of the Life Cycle Institute at Catholic University. "I think its a tone change. My gut feeling is they are trying to live with this somehow."

Fenty's decision to sign the bill in a church offended some people on both sides of the debate. All Souls, founded in 1821, has deep ties to the city's progressive and gay communities. Fenty's parents, longtime activists, said they often took Fenty to women's liberation and peace rallies at the church when he was growing up.

But the Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said Fenty was sending a signal "that one set of religious beliefs trumps another and that marriage is strictly a religious act."

"Faith is not a political tool," said Gaddy, a supporter of same-sex marriage.

On the sidewalk in front All Souls, the Rev. Rob Schenck staged a one-man protest against same-sex marriage. "I think this is particularly sad because it contradicts what the church, Christianity and all churches have been teaching for a millennia on marriage," said Schenck, president of Faith Action in the Nation's Capital, a conservative religious group.

The Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the Black Church Initiative, accused Fenty of acting like the "pope."

In an interview after the bill-signing, Fenty said he it is important to recognize "that people from all different backgrounds" support same-sex marriage.

Although Jackson and other opponents tended to dominate the headlines, more than 200 local faith leaders joined to form Clergy United for Marriage.

The Rev. Rob Hardies, pastor of All Souls Unitarian, said he and the Rev. Christine Wiley, co-pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Southeast, decided to form the group when they overheard a protest by Jackson in front of the Wilson Building in May.

"We wanted to dispel the rumor that you cannot be pro-God and pro-gay," Hardies said.


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